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ER physician Dr. Travis Stork was surprised to read the findings of a recent survey where 12% of mental health professionals admitted to having sexual contact with a patient. Licensed marriage and family therapist Kiaundra Jackson joins the discussion and says for her, the finding is not surprising.
The therapist/patient relationship involves trust and vulnerability and Kiaundra thinks that connection can often get misconstrued as sexual energy. OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry too can see how a patient putting trust into a therapist, can find a deep connection because their therapist becomes someone who understands and listens to them.
Dr. Travis is also bothered by this because the numbers are probably higher since this study was self-reported and the findings of those studies are notoriously known to be low. “Isn’t it sacred, when you go into that field, you take a vow to yourself to not have a sexual relationship with a client?” Dr. Travis asks. Dr. Jackson agrees that you do.
As a psychiatrist, there is a rule, that you can’t have sex with a patient, current or former. With psychologist, it’s a little different in that they can’t have a relationship for two to three years after they've ended the therapeutic relationship. Dr. Jackson says there is an ethical gap there.
Dr. Jackson doesn’t believe people go into the field of therapy with ill intentions but rather people get sidetracked and side-barred. Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon adds therapists are still humans and humans make mistakes and fall prey to temptation.
Dr. Jackson says she would never advise a relationship between a therapist and a patient at any time because that therapist is always in a position of power. They know so much about the client and you don’t want that in a potential romantic relationship moving forward.
The Doctors do want to acknowledge that the majority of psychiatrist and psychologist out there are fantastic and this is in no means to discredit them. However, if you are seeing any type of therapist or mental health professional and you feel uncomfortable or that they might be taking advantage of you, quit that relationship immediately.
A therapist should never be touching you or talking about themselves. If the behavior is inappropriate, The Doctors advise you to report the behavior to the therapists’ board. Below are some resources if you think you may be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship with your therapist: